Kristi Nelson on Why Gratefulness Brings Happiness



Kristi Nelson has dedicated her career to leading, funding and strengthening organizations committed to progressive social and spiritual change. Today, at the helm of the Network for Grateful Living, she is helping awaken thousands of people around the world to the life-changing practice of gratefulness. Co-founded by Benedictine monk, teacher and author David Steindl-Rast, the network offers educational programs and practices that inspire and guide a commitment to grateful living, and spark the transformative power of personal and societal responsibility.

Earlier in her career, Nelson founded a values-based fundraising, consulting, training and leadership coaching company, working with groups such as the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She also served in director-level positions for the Soul of Money Institute, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society.

Nelson lives in Western Massachusetts with her family, grateful to be surrounded by the wonders of the natural world and connected to a vibrant, loving and grateful global community.

Why is it helpful to differentiate between gratefulness, gratitude and thanksgiving?

Gratefulness is a proactive orientation to life that originates inside. You wake with a sense of thankful awareness for the gift of another day, of all the miraculous things your body did overnight to keep you alive and healthy and an all-encompassing sense of the great fullness of life.

Gratitude is more of a response to something going well; anything from receiving the perfect present to five green lights on the way home to beautiful weather. It can become an addictive pursuit to try to get life to deliver something positive again and again, whereas gratefulness emanates from a more unconditional core.

Thanksgiving bubbles up when we’re so filled with a sense of gratefulness—that great fullness—that we overflow into finding ways to express thanks aloud and in actions, such as delivering praise or being of service.

In what way is happiness related to gratefulness?

The truth is that it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. We can have all the things that should make us happy, and that we wish would make us happy, but unless we feel grateful for what we have, it’s likely nothing will truly make us happy. Happiness can be susceptible to outside circumstance, whereas gratefulness is an orientation we can more consistently maintain.

How do we cultivate gratefulness as a way of being, rather than an intermittent feeling?

It’s a three-step process: stop, look and go. First, we pause to be present; slow down enough to notice all the things for which we can be grateful.

Second, we enlarge our perspective to take nothing for granted and acknowledge that life is short and uncertain, so we are grateful each day we wake up. This step is also about being aware of our privileges, starting with our ability to see, hear, move about and function. It keeps us aware, awake and alert.

Consider how we feel when electricity returns after an outage or when we can use our hand or foot after a cast comes off. Within minutes, we can forget how appreciative we were for those things, so we need to build reminders into our lives.

Third, we generate possibilities. Find ways to express appreciation or nurture something we care about by engaging in an actively grateful way. Even when we suffer hardship, shifting our awareness to notice whatever is sufficient, abundant and beautiful enables us to be grateful. This creates a ripple effect, bringing more reasons to be grateful. It’s a radical way to live.

Which other qualities of life that people now seek give you hope?

It gives me hope when people seek contentment. Paradoxically, discontent gives me hope too, because when people recognize injustice and social biases, it pushes us to engage; to stand up and take note of what’s not okay and needs to be changed.

Love also gives me hope, especially when individuals seek to love more generously, inclusively and compassionately. It brings me the most hope of all when I see people building bridges and stretching their own capacity to love beyond their comfort zone.


Connect with April Thompson, in Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com.


This article appears in the November 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

News Briefs

The S P A C E Sanctuary Opens in Chappaqua

The S P A C E Sanctuary Opens in Chappaqua

“It was created as a place to gather, rest, breathe and heal.”
Bernadette Bloom Discusses Esoteric Healing on The Transformation Show

Bernadette Bloom Discusses Esoteric Healing on The Transformation Show

5 to 6 p.m. on March 7
Ward Off Spring Allergens with Nettle Leaf Tea

Ward Off Spring Allergens with Nettle Leaf Tea

Something as simple as drinking nettle leaf tea prior to and during early spring can be a helpful preventive practice.
Fresh Organic Becoming ‘Go-To’ Salon for Hair and Scalp Issues

Fresh Organic Becoming ‘Go-To’ Salon for Hair and Scalp Issues

Petition Demands Environmental Impact Study of Cricket Valley Project

Petition Demands Environmental Impact Study of Cricket Valley Project

Davenport is urging people to sign the petition asking New York leaders for an updated environmental impact study of the Cricket Valley Energy project.
Feeding the Future in Yonkers

Feeding the Future in Yonkers

Feed Your Future is part of a larger mission to empower communities to reclaim and revitalize environmentally and economically under-served neighborhoods.
Riverkeeper Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Riverkeeper Film Screening and Panel Discussion

5:30 to 9 p.m., March 5, at the Newburgh Brewing Company
NewLife Expo Returns to New York City in March

NewLife Expo Returns to New York City in March

March 22 through 24
Hilltop Hanover Farm Holds Maple Fest Weekends

Hilltop Hanover Farm Holds Maple Fest Weekends

March 23 to 24 and March 30 to 31
Rhinebeck Pilates Plans April Conference at Jacob’s Pillow

Rhinebeck Pilates Plans April Conference at Jacob’s Pillow

April 26 to 28
CBD Info Talks in Bedford Hills

CBD Info Talks in Bedford Hills

Free informational session on CBD products every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Juice Detoxes Work Better and Faster

Juice Detoxes Work Better and Faster

“The body doesn’t have to break down the solids, and the results are faster and better.”
Karen Drucker: Live at the United Palace

Karen Drucker: Live at the United Palace

7 p.m. on April 8
Free Spirit Holistic Expo Coming to Area

Free Spirit Holistic Expo Coming to Area

June 2, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Center for Green Building Opens in Mamaroneck

Center for Green Building Opens in Mamaroneck

Grand opening, including complimentary food and drinks, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 23.
Chef Alex Raij Serves Up Glynwood Farm Dinner

Chef Alex Raij Serves Up Glynwood Farm Dinner

6:30 to 10 p.m. on March 9
Equilibrium Studio Opens in Pawling

Equilibrium Studio Opens in Pawling

Equilibrium offers yoga, Pilates and Barre, as well as stretching and strengthening classes designed to help people rehabilitate from injuries and improve their athletic performance.
Dance the Weekend Away in Saratoga

Dance the Weekend Away in Saratoga

February 15 through 17
Natural Remedies Can Boost Immunity in Winter

Natural Remedies Can Boost Immunity in Winter

There is scientific evidence that acupuncture has a positive effect on the immune system.
Facial Massage Has Holistic Benefits

Facial Massage Has Holistic Benefits

“A well-performed facial massage is a glorious treat that will reduce puffiness, improve skin tone and enrich complexion."
Opioid Crisis Focus in Somers

Opioid Crisis Focus in Somers

1 to 3 p.m. February 7
‘Grandfather of Integrative Dermatology’ to Teach His Methods

‘Grandfather of Integrative Dermatology’ to Teach His Methods

“I encourage anyone living with unsolved chronic skin conditions to make an appointment and see how we can help you.”
Valerie Nivar Offers Natural Solutions for ‘Invisible Illnesses’

Valerie Nivar Offers Natural Solutions for ‘Invisible Illnesses’

“I am passionate about empowering my clients to achieve motivation and confidence and to live their best life.”
Sugaring Program at Sugar Hill Farm

Sugaring Program at Sugar Hill Farm

February 23
Holistic Chamber of Commerce Adds Poughkeepsie Chapter

Holistic Chamber of Commerce Adds Poughkeepsie Chapter

The new chapter will promote and support holistic and sustainable professionals and business owners in the Hudson Valley.
Synchronicity Brings Healing through Psychic Readings

Synchronicity Brings Healing through Psychic Readings

“These readings help offer guidance and insight into life situations.”
Microdermabrasion Now Offered by Daniela Hortencio

Microdermabrasion Now Offered by Daniela Hortencio

“It’s basically an exfoliation and skin rejuvenation procedure that leaves skin looking softer and brighter.”
Alternatives to Violence Project Seeking Workshop Facilitators

Alternatives to Violence Project Seeking Workshop Facilitators

The next Basic workshop in Westchester will take place March 8 to 10.

Add your comment: